Lolli the goat gets prosthetic legs, new home at Gentle Barn
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — With a little hesitation, Lolli the goat takes a step, kicks up her hind legs and bounds around a stall at the Gentle Barn animal sanctuary in Murfreesboro. Gentle Barn founder Ellie Laks stands close by, a wide grin spreading across her face.
Lolli’s legs are not her own, but prosthetic ones created just for her.
“I live for moments like this ... where we’ve taken an animal that isn’t living its best life and we can help them live better ... with more mobility and more joy,” said Laks, founder of the nonprofit that takes in rescued farm animals.
Lolli’s story starts in the middle of an ice storm at a farm not far from the Gentle Barn in rural Rutherford County.
“She was born last December, and because of the freezing cold and frostbite, she lost her back legs and tips of her ears when she was a tiny newborn,” Laks explained.
A concerned neighbor near the farm where Lolli was born helped owner Charlene Bigford keep the little goat alive. But they were unable to give Lolli the specialized medical care she so desperately needed.
“I had made her a little prosthetic kind of thing just to get her little back foot (off the wet ground). ... She did remarkably well,” said Kelly Higgins, who served as Lolli’s “caregiver” the first nine months of her life. “She’s always been a real trouper.”
Without full use of her back legs, Lolli was left to drag herself around the farm. Her deformity kept her from keeping up with the other animals in the herd. Higgins said he was afraid the little goat would fall prey to a stalking coyote.
“She was defenseless against anything if it came in there. And the bigger she got, the harder it was going to be for her to (be mobile),” Higgins said.
So when he heard about the Gentle Barn opening late last summer he contacted the organization for help with Lolli.
“I’d been trying to find somebody (to help). If the Gentle Barn hadn’t come along ... I’d still be trying to find somebody,” Higgins said. “I was so thrilled to hear about them and finally get connected with them.”
Laks said she was so moved by Lolli’s story that she knew they’d have to make the Gentle Barn the tiny goat’s home.
Lolli’s story reminded Laks of the Gentle Barn’s first resident in the Knoxville location, which was relocated to Rutherford County earlier this year. Dudley was an 800-pound young cow who had lost a foot and was left hobbling on three legs.
“He was in a tremendous amount of pain . . . and suffering. He was headed to slaughter,” Laks said.
Laks and her husband, Jay Weiner, discovered “one of the best bovine surgeons in the country” at the University of Tennessee Knoxville Large Animal Hospital. Dudley underwent several surgeries to repair his limb and was fitted for a prosthesis. Eventually he was able to walk.
Once again, the Gentle Barn turned to UTK’s animal hospital for help. Lolli was given an initial operation on one of her legs to prepare for a double prosthesis.
Lolli’s prosthetics were made by the same man who fitted Dudley with a new foot, Ronnie Graves.
Two weeks ago, Lolli was cleared by the medical staff and taken home to the pastures of the Gentle Barn in Murfreesboro.
“Now she gets to run around the Gentle Barn and jump for joy with her new fancy feet,” Laks said.
Watching her discover the legs has been fun, Laks said.
“Once she realized, ‘Oh my God, I can walk without pain, oh my God, I can put this foot down,’ she was like, ‘Woo hoo,’ ” Laks said as she watched the goat jump around the stall. “It was like flipping on a light switch. She loves them.”
As to be expected, getting used to the new legs has been a challenge for Lolli, Laks said.
“She can’t flex her ankle and that’s a funny feeling. But she’s been doing amazing,” Laks said as she plopped down in a bed of hay in Lolli’s stall she shares with mama goat Minnie Mae.
For two months, Lolli will be able to wear her new legs for only short periods of time. Her muscles and skin have to get used to the wear.
“When we have to take them off, I feel so bad. But her body has to get used to them. For the last 10 months of her life, she’s had a crooked spine and one leg she couldn’t even put weight on,” Laks said.
When she’s not wearing the prosthetics, Laks said, Lolli is very “sedentary and quiet.”
“But the minute she puts them on, she’s zipping all over the place. She loves them. She lights up when she has them on,” Laks said.
You can help with Lolli’s medical expenses and care by visiting the Gentle Barn at gentlebarn.org. There’s also more information about some of the other residents at the farm and how you can help.
Reach Nancy De Gennaro at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-278-5148 and on Twitter @NanDeGennaro.
Information from: The Daily News Journal, http://www.dnj.com